RPCV Life

I have graduated from “pcv” (Peace Corps Volunteer) and am now an “rpcv” (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer)! I have changed sites to show the transitions back to the United States. My latest blogs are now located at: http://www.rpcvkayleek.wordpress.com

Love and peace to all!

Advertisements

The Peace Corps Transformation

**NOTE: This comes from my PERSONAL perspective. EVERY experience is different. Some people have a Peace Corps experience of minimal challenges where they are on a constant “up” from day 1 till the day they leave, while some have challenges that may shorten their Peace Corps experience. What is to remember is that we all see and experience differently. I hope my perspective can give a taste towards the beauty that I found here in Guyana. It is not the kind of beauty you can instantly see and feel, but a kind of that is further discovered every day. The beauty that lies in the way we look at things. **

When I first arrived to Guyana in April of 2014, I came in as what I considered a “realistic idealist.” I had worked in lower income communities and children from challenging backgrounds, so I felt I didn’t have naivety towards what may lay ahead in the work that comes in a developing country, but I was still very much excited towards changing the world. I had been excited to join the Peace Corps for quite some time, and looked forward to the idea of adventure and discovery that could overpower hardship. I entered Guyana with bewilderment, curiosity, and innocence towards what it really meant to “change the world.” It was almost like the kind of excitement you see in a 4 year old going to a playground for the first time. I had no idea what I was really getting into, but it sure seemed exciting and up my alley.

The first bucket bath, night without A/C, and sleeping under a mosquito net, with a Guyanese family I had only first met, all seemed exciting and thrilling. “This is what its all about”, I thought. I would then head to long days of training, where I learned a bit about the country, and would become excited yet quite anxious towards what I had gotten myself into. I would hear fellow Americans saying things like “this is close enough to America to not be exciting, but developing enough to be boring”, or even “the enthusiasm fades away with time.” What was the meaning behind all of this? Was it true, should I not be excited? Why was I not warned of this? I thought this would be a great grand adventure. I thought I would be discovering, learning, and serving people who truly appreciate it. I quickly learned though that things weren’t so black and white. With a ministry that works as a hierarchy, politics based on race, a system that still subtly works in a caste system, limitations towards the involvement we can take being American citizens in a government organization, and a culture that didn’t want to change from it’s laid back momentums…change was not so easily going to take place. I quickly formed anxiety and frustration towards what exactly it was that I could do to make a positive change for the people and community. Coming into a developing country as a fast-paced, ambitious, ready to change-the-world American can require finding some balance, as many of us so quickly learned.

One of the best analogies that was made to me during this time was, “you have trained your whole life learning how to run an American marathon. You went through the school, the hobbies, the workplace, and environment. You know how to talk, act, walk, and get through day-to-day on American pace. Erase all of that. You’re starting over. You are a newborn baby and you are about to start learning to crawl through this Guyana marathon.” Even now, after 24 months, I am simply a 2-year old toddler learning the walk, talk, and behavior of Guyanese. And it has required completely letting go and taking everything as a learning experience to get this far.

After 3 months of training I excitingly/anxiously/nervously hit the next step of being placed in a village, where I remained as the only volunteer, let alone “white person” within the entire community. The first couple of nights, I’ll admit, I cried on the phone to my parents. I was lonely, scared, unsure, and for the first time, a minority. While I entered Guyana thinking, “yeah, I’ve been in challenging situations before”, I had never yet encountered where I lived completely alone in a village, with no volunteers in a walkable distance, no family nearby, and no regular American comforts to scurry off to. So instead, I ate Peanut Butter (thanks Peter Pan), vented to nearby volunteers (thanks ALL of you), and cried to my family while saying, “I’m just not sure if I can REALLY do this. It seemed a lot cooler over the internet.” (thank you family for always listening.) Each time though, my ridiculously supportive, pushing, parents would calmly tell me, “stick it out a little longer.” And each time, I would.

I once read on a random Peace Corps blog, “if you can make it through the first six months, you can make through the whole service.” While this is not true for everyone, I continuously told myself it could be true for me. And thankfully, I was one of the lucky ones who it became true for. The longer I stayed, the more comfortable I became with myself, my community, and my projects. The more time that went on, the more I learned how to crawl that Guyana Marathon. I discovered the culture, the people, and the ways I could help in which the community would like me to help. I did not arrive for colonization, I arrived to serve the people and help them learn how to help themselves. I learned how to relax, “tek no stress”, lay in my hammock for long periods of time, sit with neighbors for hours simply to gaff (talk), and say good morning/good afternoon/good night to every person who walks by. I was no longer hitting an ultimate low of questioning my experience, but fully involved in what I was doing and why I was there. This does not mean I did not have frustrations and challenges, but that I learned how to take it day-by-day and not freak out so excessively over the unknown. I relaxed and found more peace within myself, and with that, came more peace in my outer world.

Now, the Close of Service Training has been completed, 24 months done, and the 100 day countdown beginning. I find myself struggling with the acceptance that this journey is coming closer to an end. The Peace Corps saying “it’s the toughest job you’ll ever love” really hit the nail on head. I have grown accustomed to my 30 minute walks to school with students, the stampede of Grade 1 and Grade 2 students who greet me for a hug at the school each morning, the overload of hellos from people in the community, and the generous fruits and vegetables from my market lady, neighbors, and friends. I have gotten used to being ok with simply relaxing, and listening to the breeze in the palm trees and the roosters crowing for an obnoxious amount of time. The surprise parties the teachers throw on one another’s birthdays, how everyone is always checking in, and the simplicity of simply living day-to-day without a worry of where this life will take you. I reflect on my views to America now and realize they have changed. I have seen the way children idolize over white baby dolls and white people on the billboards and movies, the visual images to “white privilege” that I so naively ignored before entering Guyana. I have learned the pros and cons to the Guyanese lifestyle of “just now” versus the pros and cons to the American lifestyle of “work work work work.” Guyana welcomed me with open arms and taught me to stop and breathe everything in. I may always have the American mindset with me, but I am eternally thankful for this Guyanese experience that has taught me to just be. The moments that I so greatly appreciate did not show up on my first day of arrival. They are the moments and lessons that I still learn on a daily basis. I learned that it is not so much about “changing the world”, but making a difference somewhere, somehow. The world is such a huge place. Why not leave positivity when we can?

Overall, Peace Corps has not been the journey I expected, but I have learned that the more I open my mind to lessen expectations, the greater the journey becomes. It is not the adventure you see on social media or Universal Studios, but do not be confused; because it has 100% been greater than any adventure I’ve taken part in. I wish I could bold, emphasize, and shout these words when I say: The true adventure lies in the beauty of learning how to live in a culture that is outside of your norm.

That is the true Peace Corps experience (to me). And I am convinced that if EVERY person on this planet could experience not just visiting, but LIVING in a culture outside of their own, than the world would double in empathy and compassion.

When I am asked for advice on how to get through Peace Corps, or if you should apply for Peace Corps it is always the same: Do not have expectations. Go in with an open mind. Stick it out the first 6 months. It will get better.
(This advice, of course, can differ for EVERY person based on what may occur throughout his or her experience.)

Furthermore, this blog goes out to the beautiful country and people of Guyana, Guy26, Peace Corps Staff, Peace Corps Volunteers past and present, my family (in Texas and formed here in Guyana), friends (ALL over – Guyana, USA, England, Buckskin) and to anyone who can relate, is considering applying, or is simply curious. Y’all are amazing. Thanks for being part of this journey.

In a Moment

It dawned on me recently how the saying, “day by day nothing changes, but when we look back everything is different” so perfectly fits into the service of Peace Corps. (For me personally at least.) The days don’t seem to change much, but the moments do. I dedicate today’s blog and writing to 2 of my favorite puppies who recently passed away: Little Thing and Girly – along with the moments they brought here on Earth.

Little Thing, age of 6 months, and Girly, age of 4 months, played a large role in my afternoons by coming over to play and sleep on my couch. They were my neighbor’s dogs, but seemed to form a second home in my family room. After Starfish passed away, these puppies were here to help me through it. I am happy to say that my neighbor is working on repairing his fence, thank you to the donors and supporters as we work on creating a healthier, safer environment for his other dogs. Every one makes a difference.

The typical response I have during these situations is that my “heart is too big” and I “need to learn how to detach from these situations.” It comes as no shock that this has been given feedback since I can remember. I understand and agree with the personal health in rational detachment, as I realize goals can not be accomplished without a steady mind. I also believe that it is important to keep sight of the bigger picture though – teaching love and kindness where and when we can. That it is love and compassion that makes the differences. I am not perfect and I lose sight of this at times. The great thing is we can always learn and change our ways. This reflects on the animals, because they do not need the given reminder to love and be kind. They just do. And they just are. May Little Thing, Girly and Starfish be remembered for their love, happiness and spread of joy. May we continue to live our lives in such free loving happiness.

 
Everything can change
An injured bat
A loving mother
A learning daughter
A blanket and a box,
A rush for help
A nonverbal lesson
Love and care for all

In a moment
Everything can change
A dog taking sight of her human across the street
A rush of love to be with her human
A lack of a fence
A flash of a car

In a moment
Everything can change
An animal once wild
Domesticated by human
Evolved to solemnly love and serve for human
Evolved to become codependent for human

In a moment
Everything can change
A domestic animal viewed as a rodent
Disease, aggressive, rabies
No home, no food, no love
Dozens of litters
Unable to fend for herself
Unable to fend for her litters
Shooed away by locals when she gets close
A lack of love
A lack of time

In a moment
Everything can change
Taking in the stray
To make him scare off the thieves
His life on a short chain
Creates his anger
They claim it’s his anger to protect
But it’s stronger than that
It’s anger for freedom
His anger that man
Has not provided the essentials
Of love, of care, of kindness

In a moment
Everything can change
A helpful hand
The touch of a stranger
A trip to a vet for medicine and spaying
A healthy diet
A loving home
A loving tone
There is little that this animal needs
To be loved is more than enough

In a moment
Everything can change
Filling everyone up on rice
Keeping their bellies full
But their minds and nutrition empty
A loss for what health looks like
This is all the life there is to know

In a moment
Everything can change
Charities that bring in goods
They bring in money, valuables,
Ways to survive
Showing love sent from afar
But there is not the one to teach the love
To teach how to use it all
How to save it all
How to sustain it all
A computer given without education
Becomes dusted and unused
A book given without knowing its use
Is thrown with torn pages
They say it’s hard to save
When you’re living day to day

In a moment
Everything can change
An abusive house
A neglect of love
An untaught way to a beautiful world 

In a moment
Everything can change
It is never the things we need
But the people we need
To join together
In education, in love, in kindness
To become more than aware
To become involved
To lose judgment towards culture, religion, gender, race
To lose judgment towards anything that is outside of your “norm”
To come together as one
To be kind for the simple purpose of being human

In a moment
Everything can change
It may not change the whole world
But it could be your world
It could be his world
It could her world
It could be our world

In a moment
You can make a change

 

Trinidad & Tobago: A Peace Corps Paradise

Day 1:
In the wee hours of the morning, we awoke, had a quick cup of coffee then departed for the airport. We were on our way to Ogle Airport then on to Port of Spain in Trinidad via Liat Airways. After a few days there, we would move on to Tobago, a smaller island nearby. These two islands are generally known as the pair, Trinidad and Tobago. What follows is an accounting of our travels to and around this new country. Included are our itineraries and costs for the 9 day-8 night trip in case anyone wants to follow our route.

We arrived in Piarcos Airport, commonly referred to as Port of Spain, about 7:30. Obviously the first thing we did was indulge in what Trinidad is famous for, their lauded doubles. A double is a deep fried roti, which is already fried flour and water, wrapped around a tasty pile of fried channa which are chickpeas. With a dash of pepper sauce, they taste exactly like you’d expect, delicious.

After a quick bite we set to the task of getting to the actual city Port of Spain. Our airbnb host, Ally, said we could take a taxi for around $30 US, $187.50 TT, or take the bus for $.64 US, $4 TT. We’d been advised that transportation in Trinidad was similar to that of Platform 9 3/4, if you don’t know exactly where to find what you’re looking for, you won’t get there. After more searching than should have been necessary we found the newsstand with a small sign selling bus tickets, bought a couple and we were on our way.

A bus ride, grocery shopping for the standard Peace Corps Volunteer’s meal of nut-butter and bread, and a walk later we made it to our hosts house. The travel, while slightly inconsistent and infuriatingly slow at times did give a nice feel of how Trinidadians move around normally. It allowed us to have a more authentic scenic route towards the lifestyle and daily lives of Trinidadians. Ally, the host, was on her way out with, I’m fairly convinced, a Czech spy named Ava on her way to Venezuela. Ava was very guarded on her reasons for traveling to Venezuela and if she’s reading this right now, I hope the spying is going well.

Kaylee and I napped for a few hours, it was almost noon, then we hit the streets to see what was up in POS. Ally lived very close to the main nightlife hub of POS, Ariapita Avenue. There were plenty of cool restaurants and bars on the strip. We found a bar that was open, had a few Caribs, went down the street for a gyro, went back to the bar for a few more Caribs then retired for the evening.

   
   

Day 2:

Christmas morning started with an adventure to Fort George at 8 AM. We ate our nut-butter and bread, as usual, packed our map and water, and headed out for the hike. The house we stayed in was centrally located, so we decided we would do the cheap athletic backpackers version to Fort George – even though TripAdvisors advised not to. Fort George was built during the 1800s on top of a hill to overlook Port of Spain for any possible invaders.

After 2.5 hours of hiking, with a steep uphill final mile we will always remember, we made it to the fort. Being Christmas Day, it was only us and the stray dogs that overlooked from the top of the hill. While we advise for other visitors to do the car route, the walk was well worth the view. We relaxed at the top for a short rain shower, ate lunch, took selfies that categorized us as “basic”, and tried our best to swallow the spectacular view of the city, luscious hills of rainforest, and turquoise ocean.

About late afternoon, we headed back to the city, with a much easier walk back being that it was all downhill. By the time we reached the city, our bread and nut-butter stomachs were ready for something new, so we searched for any sign of open restaurants in the ghost land of Christmas Day. Luckily we found a Chinese restaurant called, “Me Asia: Dim Sum” that happened to be open. While neither the staff nor menu were in English, the food looked (and tasted) delicious so we ordered beers, chicken feet, and dim sum to fill our tummies. After a pleasantly full meal, we retired back to the house by evening time, and relaxed for the rest of Christmas Day. A very merry Christmas indeed.

Note: Most places (and transportation) are closed the day of and after Christmas.

   
    
 

Day 3:

Our initial plan was to get to the Asa Wright Nature Center and do a tour of the place. It seemed nice online and all the brochures mentioned it as being a cool place to go. We mentioned it to Ally who immediately shot it down, it would be much too expensive to get there the day after Christmas if we could find someone to take us. Ally offered us an alternative, she was going birding down the coast and offered to take us with her then after that she was going to a late lunch and could drop us by the local mall and movie theater, Movie Towne. Excited by the prospect, we eagerly accepted and she delightedly drove us down the coast.

Our first stop was at the Hannuman statue. It’s a big statue of the Hindu monkey god and apparently it’s the biggest one outside of India at 85 feet tall. It was pretty cool and there was a small temple nearby that we walked around as well.
Our next stop was another Hindu site, the Temple By The Sea. The story is that a Hindu man wanted to build a temple but the local government wouldn’t give him the land to do so and even tore down some of his initial attempts. The man then started to build a temple in the ocean, dragging out rocks to form a foundation. He died before it was finished but by that time the government had come to its senses and finished it for him. The temple is also surrounded by broken pottery, which held the cremated remains of local Hindus that had been religiously disposed of in the sea near the temple. Ally said that successive governments had kept the place in good shape and there would be public outcry if it fell into disrepair.
A few more birding sights later we returned to Ally’s home and then we were off to Movie Towne! Movie Towne is like Giftland, Guyana’s mall, on steroids, I think that’s the best way to describe it. We were initially attracted to it by an ad in a tourism magazine stating they had a restaurant called Texas De Brazil and Kaylee said we had to go. It turned out to be a very fancy steakhouse and had very little to do with Texas.

We went to another, cheaper, restaurant then we went to the movie theater and saw Joy. Afterwards there was a concert by a local musician playing Christmas songs. We’d never heard any of them but the crowd was singing along so the guy must have been fairly popular. We stayed for a while then walked home fully satiated on a Red Velvet Cake Milkshake from Burger King.

  
    

Day 4:

The 27th played out to be our most relaxing – city touring day. We started off the morning by walking and relaxing in Port of Spain’s Botanical Gardens, as we sighed in awe over how clean of an environment it was with its lack of trash and beautifully managed landscape. We then walked through a few rain showers while touring outside of the “castle” and other nearby statues exhibiting the history of the city. We took more “basic” photos, looked around the performing arts theater, and ended at our long missed comfort zone of McDonald’s. While it was not a place I normally indulged in while living in America, it was the closest to home we could be. We indulged with eyes closed on the American food and smells associated with McD’s. After this, we traveled back to the house, where we relaxed until evening struck with a voyage for lamb gyros at a nearby street vendor. While we were responsible towards how money was spent, we agreed vacation was not to be spent on calorie count.

   

   
Day 5:

We lucked out on our last day in Trinidad as our incredible host, Ally, offered to take us with her (for free!) to Maracas Bay – a beautiful beach with turquoise ocean, mountainous views, and the famous “bake and shark”. The ride there was spectacular, and the beach had a light amount of people with wonderful weather. We spent the day relaxing on the beach, swimming in the ocean, eating shark and bake with Caribbean beers, and building a “StagMan Castle: a man’s sandcastle.” For foreigners of Caribbean beer- Stag’s logo is “a man’s beer.”) We headed back to Port of Spain in the early evening where we bathed, packed up, ate pizza at a local restaurant, and went on to our night flight to Tobago.

      
Day 6:

The morning was rife with frustration and a dash of motion sickness. We had intended to rent a car for our stay in Tobago but, unfortunately, someone who is totally blameless forgot his drivers license in Guyana. Luckily, our host, Tina was going to the airport that morning to pick up some more guests that were staying in the room above us. We hitched a ride down to the beach with her and arrived about 1030. Kaylee, sadly, had a touch of motion sickness so out next mission was to obtain some Dramamine colloquially known as Gravol, the brand name.

We walked up the street in search of a pharmacy. The first place we went to didn’t have any but said there was another pharmacy up the road by the Penny Saver, the local supermarket. What the clerk didn’t mention was it was about a half hour walk in the mid day sun.

One dehydrating walk with a new Trinidadian friend, Marlon, we made it to the next pharmacy. We asked for some Gravol and the staff were initially hesitant to sell it to us, but we were able to get some.

We went back to the beach and thought about going to Nylon Pool but decided against it since Kaylee wasn’t feeling too well. Then we just spent the rest of the day at the beach liming (drinking and relaxing).

About 5 I messaged Tina to get her address so we knew where to tell the taxi to take us. She messaged me right back saying to wait at the car park and she would be there to pick us up in 5 minutes. 5 minutes later, there she was with two other passengers in tow. We climbed in and learned these were the two other people that Tina had left that morning to get. Apparently Drew had made it on time but Megan had been delayed and had only arrived a little bit before I’d messaged Tina. They’d been driving by serendipitously and presto, free ride home.

We learned almost instantaneously that Drew and Megan were Peace Corps Volunteers as well. Drew was stationed in Grenada and Megan was in St. Vincent. What followed was a back and forth sussing out each others services and posts, typical volunteer chit chat. We ended up making dinner together later and going down to the shop for a few beers.

   

   
Day 7:

The night before, Tina had offered to take the four of us to Argyle Falls for $100 each. We talked about it and decided we would go. So that morning we all piled in Tina’s car and headed out

The falls were pretty cool. There were three separate drops into lush pools ripe for swimming in. We climbed the steep slopes as topping at every pool. At the tippy top we peered over the precipice and were rewarded with a fantastic view. We spent the early afternoon there then descended for a scenic drive home through the countryside.

Later that night the four of us traveled into Crown Point, the local hot spot, for a nice meal. We walked around for a little bit and didn’t see anything that really tickled our fancies. We went with the last resort, a gyro place. Gyros are actually really popular in T&T and I’m glad about that.

We took the gyros to a local bar, Jade Monkey, and ate and drank until the karaoke started. Drew and Megan had to leave since they had an early flight so we trundled home and off to bed following fond farewells from our newfound friends.

      
Day 8: 

The last day of the year started with an early ride with Tiina, to her shop full of unique crafts and clothes from India, South America, and the Philippines. We walked to the nearby stadium where they do “Easter Goat Racing”, checked out a golf course we imagined playing on, and headed to another beautiful beach – Mt. Irvine, where we relaxed with German tourists for remainder of the day. From there we walked to a local supermarket to pick up REAL wine and REAL AMERICAN CHEESE (volunteers in developing countries – you know this is huge) to celebrate the incoming of the new year. Walked back to Tiina’s shop for a ride home, ate and drank merrily, and took a power nap until 11:30 PM like an elderly couple. We awoke in time for the countdown, which was followed by a local party blaring soca music from 11:30 PM until we left the next morning at 8:00 AM. A special yearly celebration for the neighborhood, with delicious corn soup, and a happy reminder that we “sure were lucky we took that nap before the music began.” We discussed how quickly the year had gone by, our gratitude for its lessons, and how we couldn’t believe our peace corps service was reaching its final quarter – that we would be going back to America with only 6 months left of service. With all that being said, we wish everyone a happy new year. May 2016 be your best year yet.    

 
 Day 9:

Traveled back to Guyana while reflecting on our joyous and budgeted trip…

Prices and Tips:

Total amount spent: ~$700 per person

Round trip tickets from Guyana to Trinidad: $268.63 (Prices go as low as $225- I paid extra for “security fees” incase of cancelled/delayed flight) 

Baggage: free as we only brought carry-ons! 🙂

4 nights in Trinidad: $69

Round trip ticket to Tobago: $48

4 nights in Tobago: $89.50

Other expenses (Food, transportation, alcohol): $220

Our personal review: If you want to visit a “less-touristy” Caribbean island with cheap prices, we recommend visiting Trinidad and Tobago. It was a beautiful and interesting culture to explore with its industrial city of Trinidad and natural beauty of Tobago. We were advised many times on the island to come back for their prime time of Carnival, but also felt coming at a more calm time of the year was authentic and relaxing – as long as you can figure out the transportation. We also recommend the AirBnB people we stayed with (Ally in Trinidad and Tiina in Tobago) who hosted us for reasonable prices, made us feel at home, and gave us a true authentic experience of the islands.

The Starfish Story

Starfish:


“Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.
Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!””

Obituary: Starfish

Name: Starfish Keuthan

Found: As a 6 week old kitten in Mahaicony, Guyana – being shoed away with a point broom for trying to eat chicken feed in April of 2014.

Became an Angel: October of 2015.

Age: 1 year, 4 months with the soul of a 200 year old Yoda.

Place of Residence: Mahaicony, Guyana, South America while in the process of becoming a United States Citizen.

Starfish enjoyed hunting a variety of south American creatures, including but not limited to: bats, exotic looking hummingbirds that could possibly be endangered, mice, ginormous lizards that could pass as iguanas, roaches, mysterious bugs, wasps, and the occasional hawk. He enjoyed sleeping in awkward positions, climbing into the neighbors ceiling and staring at them while they yelled at him to get down, assisting me in taking care of animals that came into the house, eating, and most of all “chillin’.” Starfish was Mr. Miyagi (AKA Mr. MEOWgi) to the animals, by cleaning kittens, teaching them to hunt, and even letting the puppy Chicken sleep on his belly at night. Starfish was the most relaxed – laid back – “Big Lebowski” – zen character I’ve ever met. On days when I would come home in frustration or tears, he always looked at me as if to say in his Guyanese Creolese voice, “don tek no stress”. As a kitten, Starfish would greet me at the door each day after school, follow me to the couch, and purr on my lap as I pet him. Once he reached his adult stage, he no longer craved to be petted or held as often, but never stopped needing to be in the same room as I was. He loved purring on my bed, purring on couches, and purring for the simple joy of life. He did not enjoy getting wet, but loved swatting water with his paw when it came out of the tap. He enjoyed climbing in the fridge and resting for periods of time to expand his “chill” character and walking in front of you when you were carrying large buckets of water. He survived a violent cat fight as a kitten, and became an even closer companion to me afterwards. He never complained or whined, and would sit in my room when he was not feeling well. Independent, relaxed, and down-to-earth- Starfish was one of a kind. Students often drew me pictures of Starfish and I. (Except many times they would draw me walking Starfish on a leash in so I’m not quite sure about that.) Everyone knew Starfish for his chill and relaxed persona – and while some called him “fat”, the vet would agree to say he was one of the healthiest cats around. When people would ask if I lived alone, was married, or had children – I would always respond that I lived with my cat. This always had a humorous response, but it became quite well known with those who knew me that Starfish was a part of my family.

Starfish became sick and passed away in what seemed the blink of an eye. While it hurts me to know the medical resources were not available due to being in the conditions we’re in, I know he went in peace and is no longer struggling in the pain he was in. Starfish brought much peace and happiness into my life and I have faith to believe I did the same for him. I look forward to the day I will meet Starfish again. Rest in Peace sweet friend.

I also want to thank everyone who has reached out during this difficult time. I have not gone a single day since the passing of Starfish without a friend, family member, or someone in the village asking about him. Even while the level of grieving or empathy may not always be similar to anotehr’s, it is still amazing to see how much people care and know what Star meant to me.  Maybe, just maybe, the lesson of loving an animal can be remembered in some ways here in Guyana.

IMG_2862 IMG_2964 IMG_4690 IMG_4810 IMG_5359 IMG_5229 IMG_4982 IMG_5308 IMG_5880 IMG_5690 IMG_5765 IMG_6422 IMG_6079 IMG_6048 IMG_6714 IMG_6941 IMG_7123 IMG_7718 IMG_7974 IMG_7975 IMG_8391 Photo on 8-29-14 at 9.31 PM IMG_8374